ICRC pulls back in Afghanistan
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has been operating in Afghanistan for over 30 years, announced it would ‘drastically’ cut back its operations after seven of its staff died in attacks this year and another four were abducted. It temporarily suspended operations in February after six staff were killed in an attack on an aid convoy, but another worker was shot dead in Mazar-e-Sharif in September.
Central Asian democracy makes history
Kyrgyzstan, the only democracy in Central Asia, prepared to hand power peacefully from one elected president to another for the first time since independence in 1991. Sooronbay Jeenbekov, a former prime minister, won the election with over 50 per cent of the vote, removing the need for a second round. The first two leaders of the former Soviet republic were ousted by rioting. Since 2010 the president serves a single six-year term.
Delhi cracks down on pollution
A panel mandated by India’s Supreme Court announced measures to combat choking winter air pollution in Delhi, including the closure of a power plant and a ban on private generators, both until March. The sale of fireworks during the Diwali festival was again banned. Traffic-limiting measures, including a sharp rise in parking fees and keeping cars with even and odd numberplates off the road on alternate days, were also under consideration.
New Zealand gets youngest woman PM
Jacinda Ardern, 37, became New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years, and the youngest woman leader in its history, only three months after becoming leader of the Labour Party. The National Party, in power since 2008, won the most seats in the September election, but fell short of a majority as ‘Jacindamania’ enthused voters. A minor party threw its support to Labour, enabling it to take over.
Islamists lose control of Philippines city
After several months of fighting, the Philippines declared victory in the campaign to seize back the southern city of Marawi from militants linked to Islamic State. Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said at least five foreigners were among more than 40 militants killed when Philippines soldiers stormed a building where ‘the last group of stragglers’ was holding out. But analysts warned that the Islamist insurgency in the Mindanao region was not over.
Japan rues deaths from overwork
An official body ruled Miwa Sado, 31, a reporter with national broadcaster NHK, died of karoshi (overwork). She suffered heart failure after working 159 hours of overtime and taking only two days off in her final month. The case became public amid controversy after Japan’s biggest advertising agency was fined only 500,000 yen ($4,470) for illegally forcing a female employee, who killed herself, to work 100 hours’ overtime in a month.
Malala goes to Oxford
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating girls’ education, began a politics, philosophy and economics degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. Now 20, she tweeted: ‘5 years ago, I was shot in an attempt to stop me from speaking out for girls’ education. Today, I attend my first lectures at Oxford.’ She is attending the same college as the late Pakistan PM, Benazir Bhutto.
Leopard stops Indian car production
A leopard forced India’s largest car plant to close part of its factory for a day and a half before it was caught. The big cat was first spotted on security cameras in the engine department of Maruti Suzuki’s factory complex at Manesar, near Delhi. Thousands of workers were evacuated while police and wildlife officials lured the animal out with raw meat and tranquillised it.